By Kevin Coleman
Defense Tech Chief Cyber War Correspondent
If you read recent comments by White House Cyber Security Coordinator Howard Schmidt, that’s the conclusion you might draw. The web posting titled “Howard Schmidt Dismisses Cyber War Fears” has left many asking - does the left hand know what the right hand is saying?
Troubling Comments in the post:
Schmidt, in a face-to-face interview with GovInfoSecurity.com, said the federal government and the private businesses that control 85 percent of the nation's critical IT infrastructure are better positioned than ever to fend off massive digital assaults.
Well, I guess that could be true; however, that could leave many to believe we have an appropriate level of defense, are safe and we need not invest in cyber defense. These are two points with which I strongly disagree.
Schmidt questioned whether such an event as a cyber war can exist. "A cyber war is just something that we can't define," he said. "I don't even know (how a) cyber war would benefit anybody.”
How about the benefits a terrorist organization would gain by misadjusting the computerized supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) controls on a water treatment facility and making people ill. That would cause a fair amount of disruption and case fear throughout the nation. That being said, given Schmidt’s comments questioning if a cyber war could exist – next I expect he will want to cancel Cyber Command!
Schmidt’s comments came at the conference and time as FBI Director Robert Mueller called on the U.S. law enforcement and the security community to collaborate with international governments and pursue investigations further in order to combat what appears to be a losing arms race with cyber criminals.
Now read this web article called “Cyber Attacks Are Exploding in Congress” – it takes both sides at the same time. That article states that Congress and other government agencies are constantly under a cyber attack on an average of 1.8 billion times a month.
The posting went on to say that the Senate Security Operations Center alone receives 13.9 million of those attempted attacks per day. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms went on to state, “We operate in an escalating attack environment in which threats to our information infrastructure are increasing in both frequency and sophistication.” He also said “It’s a continued and constant threat. Our adversaries are getting sharper, and we have to be sharper.” The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms also said he thinks we’re safe – somewhat of contradiction to his other comments.
All this on the heels of last week’s Congressional testimony by former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell that the country was in the midst of a cyber war that it was losing. He also believes that coming cyber attacks will cause more economic damage to our country than the attacks on 9/11.
Just when I was about to file Schmidt’s comments under “things that make my head hurt” it came to me. There is only one explanation – This is all part of a massive disinformation initiative meant to confuse our cyber adversaries. I bet it works because it is confusing many of us as well.